To the naysayers who claim that the Second Amendment has nothing to do with personal defense, here is some context:
We wouldn’t have the United States of America to live in without private citizens defending themselves and their right to bear arms.
Far from being an off-the-cuff one-liner in the Bill of Rights, all twenty-seven words of the Second Amendment were given careful thought. Then, the complete sentence earned its spot among the most fundamental rights protected by the Bill of Rights. Why might this be?
The answer to this is not found in the Constitution, but in England’s 1689 Declaration of Rights. Shortly before the ratification of this document, the English faced religious oppression and royal corruption. King James II, a Catholic, sent his cronies to confiscate Protestants’ firearms in response to rumblings of revolution.
It didn’t work- he was deposed gloriously in 1688, and the 1689 Declaration specifically codified the right of private citizens to keep and bear arms because of James II and his thugs.
Since the English are a people of tradition, George III paid homage to his tyrannical predecessor almost 100 years later, in the 1760’s. He sent his cronies to confiscate colonists’ firearms in response to rumblings of revolution.
It didn’t work. The colonists invoked their 1689 rights as Englishmen to keep and bear arms, a revolution was fought and won, and we got a new nation, conceived in liberty.
If that pattern isn’t convincing, examine some of the semantics within the Declaration of Independence:
“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such a Government, and provide new Guards for their future security.”
No reasonable interpretation would lead one to think this a peaceful sentiment calling for a more local entity to regulate the tax rate on tea. The “long train of abuses” did not belong solely to King George III, and the sentence does not call for a new government but “new Guards,” a force to protect liberty made up of those who respond to the call.
When the American Revolution was fought and won, the founding fathers did not think gun ownership obsolete. Each state (except Pennsylvania) mandated its own militia, a group of men who had to attend drills regularly and bring their personally owned weapons to the cause. Gun ownership was the rule, not the exception. Every home was expected to have a gun. Firearms were a part of American homes much like screwdrivers are today.
In the spirit of the citizen militia, James Madison fought tenaciously for the power of the people against a tyrannical government or even an oppressive faction of the citizenry itself:
In Federalist #10, Madison made the bold prediction that “enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.”
At the Philadelphia Convention, he supported the power of individuals rather than just a conglomerate of people, stating, “In all cases where a majority are united by a common interest or passion, the rights of the minority are in danger.” The idea of liberty is inherently paradoxical in that freethinking majorities ruin liberty when they use it to snuff out the opinions of dissenters. Luckily, the Bill of Rights is the guide to prevent our freedom from being the numbers game it might otherwise become.
To conclude the rich history of the power of protection over the flimsiness of superficial, government-sponsored security, here is a thought from one Dwight D. Eisenhower:
“If you want total security, go to prison. There you’re fed, clothed, given medical care, and so on. The only thing lacking… is freedom.”
The Second Amendment came into existence because liberty itself relies on its people for protection against tyranny. It’s not enough for law enforcement or the military to be armed to protect Americans and freedom. In truth, the armed defense of the vulnerable is the duty of every gun owner, and promoting the right to personal protection is the moral imperative of every American.
So raise a glass to those who know their right to keep and bear arms, those who protect their rights as fiercely as they will protect themselves with their scary-looking, stigmatized black firearms, those who will join a proud tradition of successful action against thugs of any size and motive when duty calls.